The Shreveport City Council is set to decide Tuesday whether to exempt casinos from a smoking ban in their northwest Louisiana city.
In June 2020, the Shreveport City Council passed the Smoke Free Air Act, banning smoking in bars, casinos, and gaming facilities. The ordinance was to take effect in August 2020. However, it was delayed until August 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Councilman James Flurry recently introduced an amendment to exempt casinos from the upcoming smoking ban. The issue is expected to come up for a vote at the council meeting on Tuesday, according to news accounts.
Flurry previously voted in favor of the ban. He now says a ban could drive gamblers away and lead to job losses at the city’s two riverboat casinos. Gambling halls across the Red River in Bossier City do not have a smoking ban.
Last year, Councilman Grayson Boucher addressed the concern about job losses.
“We can talk about secondhand smoke all day long in these casinos and what it does to the employees. But if those employees don’t have a job, it’s going to be worse,” he said.
This year, Boucher told KEEL News Radio he has not decided how he will vote this week. His vote could tip the balance in either direction.
Raegan Carter, a spokesperson for Smoke-free Louisiana, said if casinos are exempted from the smoking ban, there likely will be “hundreds of disappointed workers trudging back to their dangerous, smoke-filled jobs.”
Las Vegas Example
Carter said Park MGM in Las Vegas is an example of a major resort “modernizing its marketing” by banning smoking throughout the property.
The smoking ban at Park MGM was put in place last fall after “continued guest requests,” according to Anton Nikodemus, an MGM Resorts executive. NoMad Las Vegas, a luxury “hotel-within-a-hotel” at Park MGM, also has banned smoking.
Carter said smoke-free casinos are better for workers and patrons.
“Competitive smoke-free gaming facilities all across America are attracting new customers and finding their employees are healthier and happier since the clean-air policies have been in place,” she said.
Casino Patrons Weigh In
Some industry expert say gamblers who like to smoke won’t go to casinos where it is banned. Wade Duty, executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, told Casino.org that smoking bans lead to “reduced consumer demand” for casino gambling.
If we have reduced customer demand, we have reduced staffing requirements and reduced vendor purchases,” he said.
Carter said any discussion about jobs losses because of a smoke-free workplace is “insidious and insensitive.”
“This is perpetuated by a multimillion-dollar industry that apparently cares more about draining money from its customers than protecting its own employees,” she said.
In Shreveport, KSLA-TV recently spoke with casino patrons about the smoking ban. A customer identified as Shundra Woods said she supports the ban. “Secondhand smoke does bother me,” she said.
Stephanie Dunn said casinos “should be a place for people to smoke.”
“If I’m out there playing I don’t want somebody next to me smoking. But I think we should have places for people who prefer smoking,” she said.
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